Tuberculosis preventive treatment should be considered for all household contacts of pulmonary tuberculosis patients in India

PLoS One. 2020 Jul 29;15(7):e0236743. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0236743. eCollection 2020.


The World Health Organization (WHO) recently changed its guidance for tuberculosis (TB) preventive treatment (TPT) recommending TPT for all pulmonary TB (PTB) exposed household contacts (HHC) to prevent incident TB disease (iTBD), regardless of TB infection (TBI) status. However, this recommendation was conditional as the strength of evidence was not strong. We assessed risk factors for iTBD in recently-exposed adult and pediatric Indian HHC, to determine which HHC subgroups might benefit most from TPT. We prospectively enrolled consenting HHC of adult PTB patients in Pune and Chennai, India. They underwent clinical, microbiologic and radiologic screening for TB disease (TBD) and TBI, at enrollment, 4-6, 12 and 24 months. TBI testing was performed by tuberculin skin test (TST) and Quantiferon®- Gold-in-Tube (QGIT) assay. HHC without baseline TBD were followed for development of iTBI and iTBD. Using mixed-effect Poisson regression, we assessed baseline characteristics including TBI status, and incident TBI (iTBI) using several TST and/or QGIT cut-offs, as potential risk factors for iTBD. Of 1051 HHC enrolled, 42 (4%) with baseline TBD and 12 (1%) with no baseline TBI test available, were excluded. Of the remaining 997 HHC, 707 (71%) had baseline TBI (TST #x2265; 5 mm or QGIT #x2265; 0.35 IU/ml). Overall, 20 HHC (2%) developed iTBD (12 cases/1000 person-years, 95%CI: 8-19). HIV infection (aIRR = 29.08, 95% CI: 2.38-355.77, p = 0.01) and undernutrition (aIRR = 6.16, 95% CI: 1.89-20.03, p = 0.003) were independently associated with iTBD. iTBD was not associated with age, diabetes mellitus, smoking, alcohol, and baseline TBI, or iTBI, regardless of TST (#x2265; 5 mm, #x2265; 10 mm, #x2265; 6 mm increase) or QGIT (#x2265; 0.35 IU/ml, #x2265; 0.7 IU/ml) cut-offs. Given the high overall risk of iTBD among recently exposed HHCs, and the lack of association between TBI status and iTBD, our findings support the new WHO recommendation to offer TPT to all HHC of PTB patients residing in a high TB burden country such as India, and do not suggest any benefit of TBI testing at baseline or during follow-up to risk stratify recently-exposed HHC for TPT.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Housing*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • India / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / epidemiology
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / prevention & control*
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / transmission
  • Young Adult